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The Definitive Guide to Doing a Bench Press With Proper Form

There are many reasons to do bench presses safely with proper weights and form. You’re about to learn both why and how to executive this classic power lift with perfect bench press form.

Why Form Is Important for Bench Presses

When working out, you often hear people say no pain, no gain. But you want to avoid severe shoulder pain that follows you whether or not you’re working out. Doing regular bench presses can increase your overall strength. 

So what muscles does a bench press work? It specifically targets the chest, triceps, and shoulders. 

Read up on proper bench press form and avoid the embarrassment of someone correcting your sloppy form, or even worse, the risk of injury.

Proper Form for the Ideal Bench Press

Proper Form for the Ideal Bench Press

It’s best to have a spotter– someone who is familiar with proper form and safety in bench pressing, to help you. This is especially important when you initially start learning bench presses, and later when you are lifting heavier weights. 

Here are the steps to executing proper bench press form:

  1. Position yourself on a flat weight bench. Lie down on your back on the bench so that your eyes are under the bar.
  2. Plant your feet firmly on the floor so that your shins are perpendicular to the ground and directly below your knees. Tighten your abs.
  3. Using weight training gloves, grab the bar with a medium-wide grip (slightly outside the width of your shoulders), wrapping your thumbs around the bar. Make sure the bar rests in the heel of your palm, with your middle knuckles facing the ceiling.
  4. Life the bar off the rack by straightening your arms.
  5. Gradually lower the weight bar to the middle of your chest.
  6. Press the bar back upwards until your arms are fully extended.
  7. Hold the weight momentarily at the top with your arms straight. 
  8. Take a deep breath. 
  9. Then lower the bar again.

Some Tips:

  1. When you are beginning, try to lift the bar without any weight on it to get a feel for lifting the bar, to learn proper form, and to warm up.
  2. When you are doing the upward press, make sure you keep your butt in contact with the exercise bench. Your head and upper back should also remain flat on the bench, but there should be a slight arch in your lower back. 
  3. Remember to keep your torso and upper legs tight.
  4. Keep your shoulders and upper arms tucked into a 45-75 degree angle when you lower the bar. This should be determined somewhat by the physique of your body. Do not flare out your arms and raise your shoulders, or you could injure your shoulder joints. For some illustrations of proper placement, and what not to do, head on to this quick tutorial
  5. To avoid injury, increase weight incrementally. Go consistently and at your own pace.
  6. Practice proper etiquette at the gym. Wipe down the work out bench after you use it. No one wants to lie down in a pool of your sweat.
  7. Some other good manners when benching at the gym, you should clear weights from the bar after lifting, whether you’re a heavy lifter or just using a 10 lb. plate. Also, return equipment to where it belongs. Dumbbells left around the gym floor can cause accidents.
  8. Normally one lets another person work in while you’re resting. However, when using a bar stacked with weights, you aren’t required to let someone interrupt your set–as long as you’re not performing an unreasonable amount of sets with others waiting. 

Some Equipment Suggestions:

  • A good pair of gloves. Try Harbinger Pro WristWrap Weight Lifting Gloves
  • A standard flat weight bench. The best workout bench for home doesn’t have to be fancy. This one by Gold’s Gym is reasonably priced, adjusts for incline and seated military presses, and gets good reviews. Gold’s also offers this adjustable workout bench that comes with a squat rack, weight storage, and more. To find the best weight bench for you, make sure to choose one that has a backrest that’s large enough to allow you to do bench presses comfortably and is stable as well as adjustable.
  • Adjustable weight dumbbells, like these from Yes4All, and/or
  • A light barbell and plates set, for starting out, such as this one.

How to Set up Equipment Properly to Get the Most From Your Bench Press

How to Set up Equipment Properly to Get the Most From Your Bench Press

  • Adjust the height of the bar. The best bench racks allow you to set the height in 1” increments. Set the height of the hooks so that when your elbows are extended fully, the bar is 2″ off of its rests. Here’s a video that demonstrates how to set up the perfect rack height. 
  • Make sure the bar is centrally located on the rack, and not shifted to either side. 
  • Ensure that your bench is situated to give you enough head support when you lie on it with your eyes directly below the bar.

What’s the Average Bench Press?

A lot of dudes who hit the gym like to compare how much they can bench. According to Livestrong.com, the typical 198-lb. man with no previous benching experience will be able to lift around 135 lbs. A novice lifter can manage 175 lbs., an intermediate lifter will bench 215 lbs., and an advanced level lifter can reach 290 lbs. For a woman weighing 165 lbs., the average bench press is 80 lbs. when untrained, with 95, 115, and 145 lbs. for novice, intermediate, and advanced female lifters at that body weight, respectively. 

Know that body weight, age, and gender help determine the amount of weight you should be pressing. If you are wondering, “So, how much weight should I lift?”, you can consult some tables like the YMCA Bench Press Test Ratings. Begin with lighter weight and warm up with 5 reps.


Doing a bench press workout will quickly increase your strength and can help you build muscle mass. Doing a proper bench press with the correct form will ensure you can continue to do them over time.

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